The Eagle’s KC Christian rounds second on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Kendall in a game one of a conference doubleheader against Rangely. Playing against tougher teams in the opening games of the season is paying off for Paonia.
Paonia had them right where they wanted them.
In game one of Saturday's doubleheader against Rangely, the Panthers were in a tight spot.
They held a slim 4-3 lead over Paonia after being held scoreless in the top of the seventh. Panther lefty pitcher Kody Denny had walked Eagle Adrian Lopez on a full count, and KC Christian, who'd already had a pretty good day at the plate, doubled on a low fly ball that landed in the gap between left and center field and advanced Lopez to third. With no outs and Tyler Kendall up to bat, the Panthers talked it over.
All the talk didn't help. Kendall connected on the second pitch for a two-run double and the 5-4 win.
It was the third of four wins last week for the Eagles, who went on to win 14-8 against Rangely in game two. It was also a confidence builder of a week for the Eagles, who were 0-3-1 before sweeping a doubleheader last Tuesday at Nucla.
Head coach Drew Potter called it "a good week." Following the wins, he said he's confident he's got his players where they should be, and the batting order is largely set.
It was a good batting average, an alert defense and a 10-run fourth that gave the Eagles a 20-1 win in game one Tuesday against the Mustangs. Derek Heiniger threw eight Ks in five innings and combined with Taylor Katzer to hold Nucla to five hits for the game. Kyler Bear drove in three of Paonia's 15 RBIs, and Heiniger was two for three with two RBIs and the team's only triple.
Kendall had an excellent week, said Potter. At Nucla he had five RBIs on the day and was three for four in game one.
After the loss, Nucla rallied for five runs, including two homers, in the first three innings. Two Paonia runs tied the game at five going into the fifth.
The Eagles went on to score two more runs in the sixth, and four in the seventh. Kendall, who was two for three, drove in three of the team's eight RBIs, including two home runs — one to left-center and one to right center, said Potter.
Dustin Braslin and Landon Long each drove in two RBIs.
Heiniger opened in game one against Rangely. He was up to about 80 pitches and was throwing really accurately, but Potter knew he would be needed in the second game. With the game tied at two and Rangely coming back to the top of their batting order in the top of the fifth, Potter brought Landon Long in to pitch.
The Panthers' Gabe Garcia and Toby Gasper scored runs on a dropped pop fly to take a 4-2 lead. Paonia trailed 4-3 after Riley Gill scored on a double by Taylor Katzer in the bottom of the sixth.
Christian, who was named player of the week, scored 11 runs in four games and hit six doubles and had four RBIs. Christian scored three runs was 4-4 in game two against Rangely, hitting three doubles and two RBIs. Christian also showed excellence throughout all four games in his fielding at short stop and in his base running, said Potter.
The Eagles hosted Battle Mountain Tuesday in a re-scheduled doubleheader (see next week's DCI for results) and will play their next seven games at home, beginning this Saturday with a conference doubleheader against Meeker. Game times are 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Volunteer Park